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Dear Diary...

07/28/07:              

                At the pool today, Rodrick and Olivia were discussing the agenda for the Overlord meeting this afternoon and one of the items is the seasonal mutual assistance pact. With the main harvest time coming up all the Overlords agree to put any and all personal animosity aside and pull together to make sure that everyone's harvests get in and delivered with as few problems as possible. Everyone agreed with the idea; there were just a lot of details that had to be worked out.               

                Seems sensible to me. Surprised the Cats went for it.               

07/30/07:

                Late this evening the phone rang - raiders attacked a caravan on the way in from a farm belonging to Mandalay Bay. A caravan from Aladdin came along as the attack was occurring and tried to assist, whereupon it was also attacked. The survivors were making their way into town and reporting heavy casualties.

                I said that I would leave ASAP to help with the casualties and hung up. I placed a call to the Temple, asking for any volunteers to meet me downstairs. Leo and I dressed and on our way thru the lobby met up with Olivia - she was on her way as well. Rodrick met us at the Mandalay Bay loading dock when the vehicles came in.

                But we saw no evidence of attack or injuries. The vehicles were all Mandalay Bay - not one Aladdin vehicle in sight. The driver of the lead vehicle apologized and explained that there was some miscommunication. "One of our support vehicles left the caravan to answer a distress call. Raiders were trying to take the last food hauler in the caravan. Our outrider tried to assist while the rest of us put the hammer down & ran for the city. Now we don't know their location - they're running under radio silence."

                "So how do we know that there are casualties?" Olivia asked him.

                "They did send one message before going silent."

                "What did they say?" she asked.

                "They said, in code, that they had neutralized the opposition and they specified 'severe medical need'."

                So we waited. About thirty-five minutes later we got word from the checkpoint sentries that they'd been spotted. Another ten minutes passed before they arrived. By that time almost all of the major Overlords had arrived - I swear, they all pace like Olivia. If she had a tail, it would have been twitching, too. The two Mandalay vehicles were followed by an Aladdin fast attacker, two Aladdin heavy supports, and about 15 TI vehicles - it looked like their entire caravan.

                The Mandalay caravan's heavy support vehicle (a heavily modified and armored Greyhound bus) was the worst. The armor had been breached (by rocket launchers, Rodrick and Leo agreed) and one axle was completely gone. Three-fourths of the crew was dead or injured.

                The uninjured helped bring the injured out and moved to report what had happened. I let the Overlords deal with it and joined the Priests and Priestesses who'd volunteered, to take care of the injured. I noticed that we were removing a lot of crossbow bolts. They were particularly nasty ones, made with barbs so that they would do more damage coming out then they had going in. They'd been contaminated before they were used - feces, old dried blood and offal. Who ever these raiders were, they weren't real particular about killing their victims fast or slow.

                There were also reports of guards who'd been shot with tethered harpoons and then yanked right out of / off of the vehicle they'd been on. I heard, later, that the last vehicles in the Mandalay caravan had been cut off from the rest by the raiders so the caravan had followed procedure and ran Hell bent for leather back to Vegas, sending out a distress call. There was an Aladdin caravan nearby, so they sent aid, and the TI caravan just floored it and overtook them from behind. That had finally forced the raiders to break off and retreat.

                The survivors described the raiders to the officials; "They were all dressed in tattered leathers of some sort. Their hair had been slicked back and then held in place with lime…. and the ones we got close enough to see - it looked as if they'd filed their teeth to needle points." That all sounded way too familiar for my liking but explained some of the wounds that looked like bites.

                They'd been driving vehicles that had been totally stripped down to gain speed; "They were basically nothing but engines and places for people to hold on to." Numbers varied by report but there seemed to be between thirty and forty of the attackers.

                "How many of them got away?" Olivia asked.

                "Almost all of them. They lost a few in the initial attack and when the people from Treasure Island showed up to assist - the raiders saw how outnumbered they were, used their speed advantage and got the Hell out."

                "Which direction did they go?"

                "Towards the south."

                "Kingman?" someone asked.

                "There have been no reports of unusual activity from them," Lucifer said.

                "Have there been any reports from Kingman?" Olivia asked.

                "Yes, there have - and all is well," Lucifer informed her.

                Olivia called Karyn and ordered her to have some people go out towards Kingman to see what might happen, "I've got like three thousand employees, don't I? Can any of them shoot? I bet they can wear armor. Let them earn their keep for a change - now I'm going back to the Aladdin to get laid."

                I helped finish up with the injured and then returned to the Aladdin as well.               

07/31/07:               

                Learned this morning that overnight, Lucifer had sent out a heavily armed 'reprisal committee' to look for the raiders. They went as far as Kingman without seeing a trace of them. Security forces in Dolan Springs reported that they had seen nothing either, so everyone agreed that they must have turned off somewhere pretty out of the way.

                Olivia ordered that a survivor be brought for her to interrogate. She got as good of a description as the guy could provide and sat down with her crystal ball to Scry. It took a couple of tries but the crystal finally showed something.

                There were a couple of people who matched the description provided by the survivor. They were inside a building of some sort. Olivia had a 'look around' and we saw the interior of the building was decorated in pure 1960's 'chic' - burnt orange carpet, avocado green wallpaper - ugly! And the place wasn't very well maintained.

                Looking around - there were more people - dressed and 'groomed' in the same way. There were men and women (at least we're pretty sure some of them were women…) sitting in small groups - tending weapons - cleaning firearms, sharpening blades, assembling arrows.

                But there was no indication of where they were.

                I asked Corellon for a little help to discern their location and suddenly had a vision.

                There was a golden light and as it faded I had a bird's eye view of Vegas and the view began to move - swooping over the desert, past Hoover Dam and down a hiway a mile or two to a sign, "Boulder City, City Limits." Then I was 'moving' thru the empty town until I stopped outside/above the "Boulder City Hotel and Conference Center". Conference center? Hah! It was a pathetic looking little hotel that had one wall almost completely burnt out, revealing the burnt orange and avocado green design. When my sight cleared I told Olivia, Rodrick and Leo where they were to be found.

                Olivia put a call in to Sparky to see if he'd noticed anything lately. He said that his security forces had neither seen nor heard reports of anything unusual.

                "Nothing at all?" Olivia grilled him.

                "Well there were some squatters who had tapped into my power and water."

                "Did you do anything about it?" she asked.

                "Naturally. I had them captured and executed."

                Olivia asked, "And what did they look like? Limed hair? Pointy teeth?"

                "No - they were quite ordinary looking."

                "How long ago did this happen?" I asked.

                "Two weeks ago. And just last week my - one of my patrols found a survivor. He'd made his way to the desert but lack of food and water forced him to flag down the patrol and throw himself on my mercy."

                Olivia asked, "Have any of your people reported seeing people with limed hair and pointy teeth?"

                "Most certainly not."

                "Maybe the guy you pulled out of the desert might have seen them?" I suggested.

                "Is he still alive?" Olivia inquired.

                Sparky seemed pretty disinterested, "He could be - he was put to work on a dam maintenance crew, sometimes the laborers don't last very long. You are welcome to come out and talk to him if he is still alive. But he didn't look very good when they brought him in from the desert."

                Olivia asked me, "So Jazz, should we drive on out there and save the teleporting?"

                "Sure."

                "We can take some motorcycles," she suggested.

                "We could take more 'supplies' in a car," I said. "Tell Lucifer you want one of his Abrams."

                Olivia told the other Overlords, "We believe the men we're looking for are in Boulder City."

                Lucifer cocked an eyebrow, "You believe or you have acquired information?"

                "Yes!" I said.

                "Which one is it?" he asked.

                "I have it on good authority that they are currently in the Boulder City Hotel in Boulder City." I told him.

                "Would you all be adverse to going out there with some of my people?" Lucifer asked us.

                Olivia shrugged, "Oh, what the fuck? I haven't blown anything up recently." The other Overlords all stared. She rolled her eyes. "Why yes!" she said, "I would love to partake in mutual assistance and protect the people of Las Vegas."

                Lucifer asked me, "Are you sure they're there?"

                "Corellon told her. But he could be fucking with her," Olivia answered.

                "No, I don't think He is," I said. "I haven't pissed him off lately. Wait - let me think about that…no, we're good."

                He sighed and asked us to 'keep an eye on them' while he rounded up people and equipment.

                Olivia used her crystal ball to do so and we discovered that the raiders seem to keep their motorpool in the lobby of the hotel, using the burned out wall as an entrance. There were currently only five vehicles visible - one looked as if it hadn't been moved in a lo-o-ong time, the other four were pretty good matches for the descriptions of the stripped down chase vehicles we'd been told about.

                As Olivia was searching, Rodrick and I were keeping our eyes peeled for anything that might appear to indicate that they were keeping hostages, but we didn't see a thing. Lucifer returned and told us that he had a group of his men, a semi and some support vehicles ready to go.

                The support vehicles looked standard issue, as did the semi - on the outside, anyway. Lucifer gave us a quick briefing on it and even Rodrick and Leo were impressed with the armor protecting the rig and the high-tech weapons and surveillance gear in the trailer.

                So our first plan was to head it on down the road - looking like a supply caravan and see what happened. Well that didn't work so well - I guess the fact that we were headed the wrong direction might have been a problem. So we pulled over well away from Boulder City and Lucifer's men attached some real heavy weapons to the semi.

                "So what's the new plan?" Leo asked. "Drive up to the hotel and blow them away?"

                Lucifer said that if we didn't come up with a better plan that he was fine with that. He didn't realize that Leo was joking. Rodrick announced that he was of the opinion that we needed more intel on what was going on inside that hotel and we all agreed. Olivia volunteered me to windwalk everyone inside for a look. Lucifer announced that he would stay behind and wait for our report. So, off we went, in thru the burned out wall, starting at the top floor and working our way down.

                "Keep your eyes open for rocket launchers," Rodrick warned.

                The roof looked ripe for an aerial assault but a closer look revealed to Rodrick that the roof supports had been booby-trapped and would not hold any sort of real weight, at all. Moving further inside we found two sentry posts each with a team of four men. The men were armed with a variety of hand weapons - but they all had a common fondness for exotic looking knives. Getting as close as possible to one of the men I saw that the studded leather that he was wearing was tattooed. That it had been tattooed before it had been tanned…. There was fringe on the leather, too, fringe that sure looked like human hair to me. The other men were wearing leathers that looked very much the same.

                One post was watching the immediate area with binoculars while the other was concentrated on the group of vehicles we had come in. At the post nearest the street in front of the building, Rodrick spotted some ropes coiled up right below a window. They were attached to C02 launchers and had rapid rappelling equipment ready to go on them - they were ready to swarm down the side of the building - almost instantly. There was also an armoire that had been pulled out of one of the rooms and was being used to store some electronic equipment - night-vision goggles, parabolic microphone dish-thingies.

                We heard the "ding" of an arriving elevator. One of the sentries heard it as well, and went to check it out. A few seconds after he gave the 'all clear' signal to his comrades they were joined by another man in similar leathers who went to the armoire and removed some equipment. In a few moments he had a tripod set up with one of the microphones attached and aimed at Lucifer's vehicles.

                Olivia moved into an empty room with a closed door and solidified then she Sent a Message to Lucifer warning him of the surveillance and telling him to not mention any plans or our presence in the building. She rejoined us as the latest arrival ordered the men at the sentry post, "Give an ops report every 30 minutes. Use code only and keep radio silence in between."

                He left to take the elevator back downstairs and we moved on to the next floor - and discovered it empty. It and the next three floors, as well. We didn't see anyone or anything of interest until we'd reached the third floor, which was filled with signs of organization.

                There were people in some of the rooms and it looked like general living quarters. We also saw women amongst the ranks. In fact one section of the floor had been designated with signs reading, "Females Only Past This Point". Then we used the burned out section to go out and do a lap around the outside of the building and found something interesting.

                There were a couple of rooms (both in the women only section) where the curtains had apparently been nailed into place to keep out prying eyes. Back inside we snuck into the rooms and discovered that some of the missing carpet and bedspreads we noticed on upper floors had been attached to the walls and ceilings of the rooms to act as soundproofing. In both rooms there was a bed with a woman lying on it. Chained to it actually.

                Neither of them looked like the raiders and there were raider women in both rooms 'attending' to them. Attending to them with wiring and car batteries. There was one raider working the contraption while another stood by with a stopwatch and a third observing.

                The one with the stopwatch clicked it and said, "That's time." The operator stopped the current and the observer moved to the bed and performed a perfunctory exam on the woman. Then she removed the gag from her mouth and gave her some water. A few minutes passed and Olivia expressed her desire to get the two women the Hell out of there while Rodrick countered that we had to finish our search of the building, then we could come back for them. Leo and I had to agree with Rodrick - we had to know what else (and who else) was in that building.

                Right before we started to leave the room the woman with the stopwatch signaled the other two. The 'medic' replaced the gag and stepped away and the operator started up the current, "Let's see if you can make five minutes this time." The woman on the bed nodded and bit down on the gag to keep from screaming.

                Torture or conditioning?

                The second floor held more barracks-type rooms but these were not kept as neat nor were the sexes separated on the floor and the people we saw moving around the floor had a much more barbaric look to them, adding small Human bones and teeth as body art. Their weapons were more plentiful and more intricate - could they be the 'elite' troops?

                As we worked our way down one hallway my skin began to crawl - there was a palpable rise in Magic. Looking at Olivia, she could feel it, too. It was so strong, I bet even Rodrick and Leo could feel it. There was a Mage in there, somewhere - a Mage of some significant ability.

                Suddenly a door opened and this - thing emerged from one of the rooms. A close look verified that there was a person inside it - one of the 'elites'. It was an elaborate mechanical contraption with spring loaded 'feet' and had very heavy armor encasing the body. It was heavy 'cuz the floor shook with every step the guy took.

                The springs added to his height by about three feet - so he had to hunch over to walk and the armor made him so wide he had to squeeze sideways thru doorways. The helmet was made of the same armor and had some serious optics on it including a long range laser targeting system. As he passed by us, Rodrick pointed to a device attached to the shoulder of the unit, "Told you! Rocket launcher!"

                Once he was in the hallway - he moved rapidly despite being hunched over and took the elevator to the main floor. Olivia followed him into the space above the elevator, intending to throw some lightning into the elevator with him but when she took solid form to do it the electricity already in the air made her hair stand on end. She returned to wind form and joined us in the lobby to see the guy approach the front desk and snap off a crisp salute for the man sitting there. The man at the desk gave him an area to patrol and strict orders to stay way from and act as if he was unaware of the presence of our vehicles.

                The man saluted, picked up an assault rifle (with attached grenade launcher) and quite literally bounced out of the building. Once on the street he made a single bounce and landed on the roof of a 7-11 store. He relieved the person on guard there and when that guy moved into sight we saw he was wearing something that looked an awful lot like the freight loader suit from 'Aliens' - with a pair of chain guns attached to it.

                Back in the hotel, we looked around the main floor. In the largest conference room there was a semi that had been brought in thru the wall and the wall repaired behind it. There were a few people sitting, rather oddly, in one corner and others walking around looking at machines and panels that were around the room. Rodrick and Leo spotted something - something that both excited and alarmed both of them.

                They indicated a contraption that was attached to the back of the semi's flat bed trailer and informed us that it was a partially disassembled power plant from a nuclear submarine. It was hooked up to a device that even I recognized - a Tesla Coil.

                But it was a huge Telsa Coil. Really, really huge. And it was working like crazy sending off electricity. Rodrick said he thought this was what produced all the electricity Olivia had felt earlier. People continued to work at control panels and making notes on clipboards. They had that very distinctive science geek look to them but it was offset (rather disturbingly) by the labcoats they were wearing. Like the clothes on the people we'd seen upstairs, the labcoats were made from human skin. They all looked fine - healthy, I mean. Way too healthy for people walking around in the same room as an unshielded nuclear reactor. They had good, full heads of hair and all their teeth were still there (sharpened to nice, fine points). Now, I don't know diddly about nuclear power - but hello! That ones a no-brainer. They should have been sick, if not dying.

                One of the lab techs was closely examining a control panel. He turned to the group sitting in the corner and said, "Number Seven. Advance the control rod three degrees." A man in the group jerkily stood and rambled forward. My hair stood up and my skin crawled!

                He was dead.

                They were using reanimated corpses to do their manual labor!

                I guess we were lucky they still had their skin attached.

                Number Seven made the adjustment and stood there waiting for approval. The technician consulted the control panel again ("Ambient Level Inside Reactor Chamber" it was labeled), nodded to himself, made a notation and said, "Number Seven - go sit down." When Number Seven turned to follow the instructions it was plain to see that he'd been killed by a single bullet to the head, execution style.

                Later - Rodrick explained that the whole set up was creating electricity that was being sent, wirelessly, right thru the air where it was being pulled in and used by the various contraptions we'd seen. Not a Tesla coil exactly, but it was one of Tesla's thingies. Wireless power transmission, I think he called it.

                Anyway, Olivia asked, "Hey Leo - if we blow this thing up will it cause a radiation problem in Vegas?"

                "No," Leo said, "just the entire Colorado River and part of the Pacific Ocean."

                Oh. That would be bad.

                We left the reactor room and found an empty room with a closed door so Olivia could solidify and Send a report to Lucifer. It was a conference room and there was maps spread all over the place and lists of observations - comings and goings, times and people.

                Lucifer's response to Olivia's report was, "Fall back. Now."

                Olivia returned to wind form and we left the room but something else caught our eyes: a heavily guarded, well ventilated room. We decided to take a peek on our way out. We slipped thru the ventilation and found an armory.              

                These were not ordinary weapons. Some were sort of shoulder-mounted contraptions that'd had industrial lasers attached to them. Then there were some sort of ultrasonic gizmos and some 'things' that looked like ray guns. I swear! Rodrick theorized they were some kind of crowd control devices. He'd seen the ultrasonic stuff used before for that sort of thing. We left the room & the hotel and sped back to the waiting vehicles. At a sign from Lucifer, everyone got into his or her vehicles and we moved out. When Leo and Rodrick agreed that we'd put enough distance between the microphones and us, we gave Lucifer a full report. Then Olivia began demanding a Geiger counter. Unfortunately, she had to wait 'til we got back to the Aladdin and Scooby. It had never occurred to Lucifer to grab one.

                Back at the Aladdin we got the Geiger counter from Scooby and Rodrick used it to confirm that we'd taken no more than two chest x-ray's worth of radiation. He handed out some potassium iodide pills anyway. Better safe than sorry. Lucifer excused himself to report to Caesar and Olivia told him to make sure that Binion was there when he reported. Lucifer gave her an absentminded, "Yeah, yeah, yeah," as he left.

                Upstairs, we decided that a pitcher of margaritas would help to get those pills working. Then we decided that a pitcher of Whiskey Sours would help cut the dust in our throats. Olivia had just ordered a pitcher of Long Island Iced Teas when something struck me. "I just had an apostrophe!" I proclaimed.

                "What?" they all asked.

                "You know! When an idea just appears to you!"

                "An epiphany?" Leo asked.

                "That's what I said! And it's a good one."

                "Well….?"

                "I think I know of a way - with Corellon's help - to turn that reactor off."

                "Then our problem is taken care of," Rodrick said.

                "Not so much," I said, "I can only turn it off for a few minutes - but long enough to incapacitate everything and everyone who depends on it for power. Then, I can cause a localized earthquake right under the building."

                But Leo disagreed, "You're over-thinking. What we do is go back there - to the fourth floor, it was empty - lay out some primacord and collapse the whole building on them. Then we fill in the hole."

                Rodrick shook his head. "No. Get a cargo plane - fill it with mud and dump it on the ruins."

                "Yes!" I said, "But no! Slurry bombers. Fill slurry bombers with mud and they can fly right over the building and dump the mud."

                Leo asked Olivia and I, "Can either of you change concrete to mud and then back to concrete?"

                Olivia's hand shot up, "Ooh! Ooh!"

                "We need someone to write this all down," I said, "Someone sober."

                "Karyn!" Olivia said.

                "Okay - here's what we do," I said, "I turn everything off - then Rodrick and Leo explode the building, then Olivia changes the rubble into mud and then when that settles - she changes the mud into concrete."

                I looked at Karyn and she was scribbling away.

                "Or!" I said, "we could get some concrete pumpers to make sure we have enough concrete. Concrete pumpers are cool."

                "Where we gonna get 'em?"

                "I bet Sparky has concrete pumpers."

                "Hold everything!" Olivia said, "I need a visual here."

                We called for a pitcher of Bloody Marys - all the planning was making us thirsty. Using the fruit garnishes from the drinks and all the toothpicks she could find on the table, Olivia built a model. "Okay - I see it now," she said and using a little-bitty magic, put a little stone wall around the lime representing the reactor and the celery standing in for the semi. Then she added an iron wall and another stone wall. "Then we drop the building on it all," Olivia said. "And then Jazz causes an earthquake, and then we have the concrete pumpers cover it all in concrete."

                Rodrick was getting into now, too, "So - Leo and I will rig the fourth floor explosives and we'll all meet at the reactor room for the dirty deed."

                "Not with my wife!" Leo corrected.

                "Right!" Rodrick agreed, "We'll meet at the reactor room and protect the womenfolk while they do their work."

                "Got that all, Karyn?" Olivia asked. Karyn gave us a big thumbs-up.

                "You know what we need to do now?" I asked. "We need to put that model in a box, take it to the Stratosphere and wow Caesar with our plan." Karyn ordered Olivia's limo. Rodrick looked around at our untidy selves and said that we should change first. "No time!" I said.

                "This is urgent!" Olivia said.

                So we trundled off with Rodrick carrying the box containing the model and Karyn's notes. During the drive to the Stratosphere Olivia asked, "Do you suppose that Lucifer is still at the library looking up everything we told him?" We all agreed that it was likely.

                But when we were shown into Caesar's conference room (formerly the Top of the World resturaunt), Lucifer was there. He had five assistants with him and one of the men was giving an honest-to-Corellon PowerPoint presentation to Caesar. I almost peed my pants.

                When people finally noticed us Olivia announced, "We have a plan!" Caesar thanked us for joining them and introduced PowerPoint man as Vance, a member of the Las Vegas Fire Department.

                "Ooooh, a fireman," Rodrick said.

                "With a high pressure hose," I said. Leo elbowed me.

                Olivia said to Lucifer, "I'm so proud! You got someone to explain all of this for you."

                "But he's a fireman," Rodrick pointed out.

                "I was in the navy - as a shipboard firefighter," Vance said.

                "Cool! If we find a ship on fire we'll give you a call," I promised.

                "I was also a nuclear power technician," Vance said. He was kind of testy.

                "Would you like to see our model?" Olivia asked as she held it up to him.

                "How nice," he sneered, "You built a cocktail party."

                "We thought about this," Olivia informed him.

                "We have an engineer, too!" I said, grabbing Rodrick and trying to pull him forward.

                Caesar stared at us and asked, "Are you drunk?"

                "No!" I said.

                "Have you been drinking?" he asked.

                "No!" I said.

                "Well, we did have some water," Olivia said, "we were very thirsty."

                "Right. Water," Rodrick confirmed. "Flavored water."

                Leo had been flipping thru Vance's PowerPoint presentation and snorted, "But even drunk, I can tell you that our idea is better than this."

                Caesar said, "I thank you for the effort that you put into this. It's good to have two plans to choose from, but one group," and he indicated us. "of people has no 'real' experience, while the other assures me that he can shut this thing off."

                My hand shot into the air, "I can do that!"

                Vance turned to Caesar and said, "Lord, I'm sure that this young lady thinks that…"

                "Hey!" I interrupted him. "I had an apostrophe!"

                "Epiphany…" Rodrick whispered.

                "An epiphany, I tell you." I repeated. "And we have notes."

                Lucifer took the notepad that Karen had been writing on and read out loud, "Find a nuclear technician."

                Lucifer held up the pad - there was a lot of doodles and in big, underlined letters it said, "Lead!"

                Rodrick seized on that one word, "Right! Lead! Olivia - that wall should be lead - not iron. We knew that."

                Caesar turned back to Vance with a question but I interrupted again, "Look! We'll compromise, okay? We'll take Jack Lemmon here with us and show him this thing - he hasn't seen it. And I think it's safe to say that he's never seen anything like this," I looked to Rodrick and Leo for a little back up and they both confirmed that this reactor was rigged up like no other reactor ever has been.

                Vance started to object but was cutoff by a ringing telephone - Lucifer's. He snapped it open with some irritation. As he answered it, though, it started to glow - a bright, bright blue. He just stared at it.

                "What the?" he mumbled.

                Someone - I don't know who - yelled, "Drop it!"

                Lucifer did so and the glow changed into five distinct rays of the bright blue light. The rays flared brighter, then transformed and solidified into five people. Raiders.

                One of them was wearing a full-length armored duster (oh so very Keanu). It appeared to be made from the blackest of black Human skins. He 'materialized' right next to Vance and without even looking struck him with one punch to the chin. We all heard Vance's neck snap before he fell to the floor in a heap. Before any of us could react, Keanu did a forward somersault from a standing position. He landed on the table in front of Caesar and began to pummel him, bloodying him seriously.

                Olivia reacted first and sent a chain of lightning at the five intruders. Thankfully that slowed them down. Suddenly Olivia's skin erupted in boils that burst open and began to ooze 'stuff'. One of the raiders, a woman, was a Mage. She was hiding behind three other men, and was smirking as she tucked a wand into her sleeve. She was quite a sight. She was wearing a long, black, flowing, 'Look at me - I'm a villain who's seen too many Disney movies' dress - made of human skins. It didn't have a single seam sewn into it; I guess it had been pieced together magically.

                From his place in the room, Phillips pulled two BFG's from under his jacket and started blasting Keanu, who was still standing on the table, pounding on Caesar. Keanu stopped pounding Caesar, but suddenly there was a series of identical images of him - he was dodging the bullets so fast it looked like there three or four of him there. It was hard to tell, but I think some of Phillip's shots connected with the 'real' one. One of the other men, spun, leapt and whipped out one of those ornate knives and buried it in Lucifer's throat.

                I was watching Lucifer fall and almost missed the guy who seemed to just 'appear' out of nowhere in front of me. There was a flash of light off the weird ass hatchet/knife thing that he jabbed at me. I didn't even have time to try to dodge before my suit jacket deflected it. A third guy launched two blades at Olivia and both bounced off of her suit jacket. Suddenly, Leo grabbed me, pulled me behind him, and emptied a clip into the guy who'd tried to skewer me. The guy fell to the floor, dead.

                Across the table, Rodrick had his Desert Eagle out and dropped the Mage with a single shot right between the eyes. Then he whirled and fired at Keanu. The guy just - stepped aside again, and the bullets shattered one of the windows.

                Since Rodrick was keeping him busy I stepped from behind Leo and sent a wave of destruction at Keanu, then I tried to run to where Lucifer lay. Unfortunately there was a table and quite a bit of activity in my way. I saw the wave hit Keanu and he turned and stumbled to the blown out window. He made it and dove right thru it, but instead of falling his coat billowed and he soared up and away! Not fast enough, though. Olivia flung some magic at him and he disintegrated right there in mid-air.

                That was when I noticed that the mage's body had begun to pulsate and glow. A noxious black smoke began to ooze from it. The smoke rose and moved towards and then out of the same window Keanu escaped thru and it headed off towards the southwest. On the floor of the conference room where the body had been was a black, pulsating, burning fiery orb.

                The remaining two raiders saw it as well and without hesitation, ran to the window and threw themselves thru it. But unlike Keanu, they plummeted, like rocks, out of sight. There was a brief second of inaction in the room that was broken by Phillips. He grabbed Caesar, tossed him over his shoulder in a fireman's carry and ran out of the room. That got us moving.

                Leo grabbed me and ran for the door. Rodrick grabbed Lucifer's furry little corpse and joined us. Leo and I passed Olivia and he tried to grab her as well but she was making a beeline for the black, pulsating, burning fiery orb. She got to it, scooped it up and out of the window.

                We all hit the floor and the thing exploded in a huge fireball just outside. All of the remaining windows were blown out and the entire Stratosphere pod shook from the shock wave and the lights went out, as power was lost.

                "Jazz!" Rodrick yelled, "he's got no pulse!" He was bent over Lucifer's body, beckoning me to hurry. I got there and used my healing wand on him. It had no effect. I tried again - still nothing. Meanwhile, Phillips was yelling that Caesar needed help. I made my way to him and used the wand again; he had some broken ribs and a fractured skull. That was about the time that the sprinkler system went into action - drenching us with stagnant water.

                At least the emergency lights clicked on as well, and we could see Olivia was still in the conference room. She was sitting against the table clutching her arm and hand. They were hideously burned. I used the healing wand on her and it helped a little, but not much. Olivia got a good look at her arm and passed out.

                I was looking around for something to wrap her arm in and noticed the other four assistants that had accompanied Lucifer to the meeting - they were cowering under the table. I yelled at them to get out of the tower. Who knew if it was safe or not? "And one of you give me your shirt!" A couple shirts were tossed my way as they scurried past. I used one to wrap Olivia's arm and called for Leo to carry her.

                We made our way downstairs just as the ambulances pulled up. They took over and loaded Caesar and Olivia into vehicles and Rodrick got Lucifer into another and they zoomed off.

                Rodrick, Leo and I simply stood for a moment watching them go. Then the fire department showed up and Rodrick and Leo gave them a brief rundown as to what had happened. While they were doing that - I noticed that Caesar's security people had gathered around two parachutes laying, abandoned in the street. The last two raiders - they had been prepared for their jump out that window. I went over to the security people and told them that they really needed to look for the two men who'd used those parachutes and I gave them a description. They assured me they'd get on it and arranged to have Rodrick, Leo and I taken to the hospital where we were shown to the VIP waiting room.

                Phillips was there and told us that Caesar was being checked out and that Olivia had been taken to surgery. I asked Leo and Rodrick their opinion of my asking Corellon to bring Lucifer back from the dead.

                "Ask Phillips," Rodrick suggested.

                I did and his response was, "He's dead."

                "Yes. I know," I said. "But should I try to do anything about changing that?"

                He ran a hand over his face and flopped into a chair, "I don't know what to tell you - I don't think that any of them have ever considered the question and remember their culture is still very young and more than a little fucked up in certain areas." He took a cup of coffee that Rodrick handed him, "And remember - they really believe in the whole 'Circle of Life' thing."

                We lapsed into silence that was broken twice - once when someone came in to report that Caesar had checked out as fine and was being sent to a room to be observed overnight and then when they let us know that Olivia had also been moved to a room and we could go see her. It dawned on me that I should probably call Annike and let her know. As it turned out, she was already at the hospital.

                In Olivia's room, Annike was carrying on about Olivia's arm. It had been removed above the elbow. Olivia knew it, but she was on some heavy painkillers. "I wish Jazz had done an earthquake on them," Olivia said. Annike tried to sooth her and promised to make it better.

                "I can fix that arm, trust me," I assured her. Olivia asked about Caesar and Lucifer - we brought her up to speed and I shared my misgivings about Lucifer.

                "Go ask him how he feels about it," Olivia suggested.

                Phillips opined that he wasn't sure if Lucifer believed in any God.

                "Ask him," Olivia urged.

                Phillips warned, "Think twice before giving these Cats any ideas. Do you want someone to go out and raise Luxor?"

                That thought gave me chills, "No! Of course not - but if I can do it before anyone knows that Lucifer died…" It was too late for that - Jim's news network was already all over the story. But I had to at least ask him! So Leo went down to the morgue with me and waited outside to make sure no one interrupted me.

                I asked Corellon for his assistance so that I might speak to Lucifer, wherever he was. I could Feel Him accede - but nothing happened. I tried again, but Lucifer simply was not there. I guess Phillips was right - Lucifer had had no faith in any deity. So I said a blessing over him, thanked him for all of the assistance he'd given us over the years and went back upstairs to tell everyone Lucifer's 'answer'.

                Leo said, "C'mon - it's time to go home now and let Olivia get some rest." Olivia insisted that Annike go, too, and Rodrick promised to see her home.

Continued...